(Reuters) - A U.S. federal judge on Monday dismissed part of a $7.9 million defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone magazine filed by a University of Virginia administrator over a debunked gang rape story.
District Judge Glen Conrad ruled that the November 2014 Rolling Stone story "A Rape on Campus" did not defame administrator Nicole Eramo by its overall implications. He left the rest of her civil lawsuit intact.
The article had reported the gang rape of a female student, known as "Jackie," at a fraternity in 2012. Rolling Stone retracted the story after inconsistencies in her account surfaced and police found no evidence of an assault.
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Eramo, who was then an associate dean of students, accused the magazine of portraying her as unfeeling about the alleged assault and concerned only about hushing up reports of sexual attack.
None of the 10 jurors could reasonably find that the story as a whole implied that Eramo "was a false friend to Jackie who pretended to be on Jackie's side while seeking to suppress sexual assault reporting," Conrad said in his ruling in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Eramo also failed to provide evidence that Rolling Stone intended to defame her by implication, Conrad said. His ruling came after Eramo's legal team had rested and before lawyers for Rolling Stone were to present their case.
Rolling Stone spokeswoman Kathryn Brenner called defamation by implication a "critical element" of the suit.
"We are pleased that the judge recognizes the limitations of Plaintiff's lawsuit and we trust the jury will find that her remaining claims also have no merit," she said in an emailed statement.
Reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely and Rolling Stone's owner, Wenner Media, also are named in the suit. Eramo has claimed that the story damaged her health, reputation and career, and she now works in an administrative role at the university.
Sex assaults remain a major concern on U.S. college campuses. Some reports estimate that one in five female students will be a victim of sexual assault during their college years.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by David Gregorio)